You always ask excellent and though-provoking questions. Thank you.
First I believe that there will be increasing demand in the future for institutions, models and approaches capable of handling high degrees of complexity. Increasing uncertainty is implicit within this notion of complexity. This complexity includes changes in the global risk ‘landscape’ such as increasing scale and frequency of disasters, increasing exposure to risk and numbers of people being affected by disasters; changes in drivers of risk and how these affect and increase vulnerability of local communities, children and youth and other segments of the population; and changes in the humanitarian arena including ways of working and financing streams.
DRR can hence be strengthened through a systems-based approach. As has been seen especially in the disasters of the past year risk has a trans-boundary nature. There is a need to look at risk in a more interconnected way, emphasizing how we address the underlying drivers of risk due to factors such as environmental degradation, climate change, urbanization and global supply chains. Further it will be important to ‘root’ the DRR and its outcomes within the dynamic systems that influence and enable them. For example, we know that DRR has a mutually synergistic relationship with good governance. Yet have we considered before planning DRR interventions precisely how they may further governance systems within a given context? It could be said that DRR and good governance are not only mutually synergistic, but they are also mutually interdependent. These interdependencies need to be factored into our DRR planning. This is moving beyond mainstreaming to working consistently in a more inter-connected way, following the trans-boundary nature of risk and growing complexity described above.
Let us take as one example the current Ebola crisis in West Africa. We could equally consider the Haiti crisis or Super-Typhoon Haiyan. In these examples a disaster ‘event’ has taken deep tolls in human lives; livelihoods, economy, natural environment, protective social systems and many other aspects of life. But what further exacerbates the intensity of Ebola Virus Disease is that it in a sense ‘peeled back the layers’ on systems which were weak and failing. This reveals the underlying, central problem of vulnerability which the Hyogo Framework highlights. However as Joanne Burke at Kings College reminds us, despite calls to bridge the artificial divide between disasters and development and having resilience serve as the paradigm to support that shift, this has yet to translate into practice. This is certainly the case concerning the ‘deeper’, underlying issues behind vulnerability, often rooted in the political economy. If this type of scenario does define ‘the new normal’, then an integrated, ‘ongoing’ form of systems-based DRR is crucial not only to protect development outcomes and build resilience but also to assist an increasing number of people with the tools needed for basic survival.
The scale of losses and human tolls on the ground demands strengthened preparedness, prevention and a scale-up in systematic, strategic investments in capacity development at all levels. Joanne Burke states that this suggests that those who engage in disasters and emergencies need to demonstrate capabilities for the assessment and anticipation of risk in a far more interconnected way. Certainly, risk assessment as ‘a foundation of strong DRR initiatives’ must adapt to this context of increasing complexity. Further, they will need to develop capabilities in adaptation and agility in order to deal with a more complex and unpredictable disaster context.
International as well as national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a critical role helping facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships and linkages between the different levels. “New” actors including the private sector and Diasporas can help ‘traditional’ humanitarian actors augment their capacity to deal with an increasingly challenging workload. There will be a greater need for a cadre of people who are experienced in resilience partnerships and able to translate the domains of public, private and non-profit into shared messaging, values and action to build resilience. Newer actors in the DRR arena may not necessarily share the same motives or abide by the same principles of more established actors.
There will also be a greater need for advocacy with and on behalf of children and other people who are disproportionately affected by risk. This includes women, people with disabilities, the elderly, and various marginalized groups. There are increasing calls around a key aspect of building capacity for future resilience – that is educating children and youth in disasters and ensuring they have an active voice in determining risk reduction measures. More work needs to be done to develop the evidence base on effective approaches to this as well as ensuring their access to basic rights including protection. New, documented ways of working are needed which lead to improved access to information needed for survival and resilience, redistribution of resources, strengthened social protection, strengthened agency in DRR policy and decision making processes, and their full engagement in resilience partnerships.
How can organizations effectively adapt to risk in these types of contexts? What are the characteristics of organizations that can thrive in a climate of increasing complexity and risk? What are the principles of effective partnership of diverse actors in an integrated, systems-based approach to DRR? How can finance streams for this type of action be scaled up? How can we collectively deepen and nuance the discussion, towards strengthening the evidence base around what works in mitigating vulnerability within the ‘new normal’, particularly of those who are disproportionately affected by risk? These are questions for our ongoing discussions.